"It's definitely hard, because you work for a long time to put yourself in the playoffs," manager Joe Girardi said. "Right now, we need a ton of help, and we need to win every game, or we're not going to get in. And that's the hard part."
Tuesday's game was one the Yankees essentially needed to win, but starter Hiroki Kuroda dug them into a hole just moments after it started. Rays designated hitter Matt Joyce led off the game with a home run, and Tampa Bay added two more runs in the inning on David DeJesus' RBI double and Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly.
Kuroda rebounded to throw four scoreless frames before Tampa Bay got to him again in the sixth, loading the bases with one out and plating two more runs on James Loney's RBI double to right-center field.
"It just seems that it's been taking [Kuroda] a little bit of time to find his stuff," Girardi said. "And then after the first, he was pretty good -- he battled pretty well until he got in a little bit of trouble in the sixth. But the first inning has been tough on him."
Kuroda lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on five hits and two walks. The right-hander has given up four or more runs in six of his last eight starts, going 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA over that stretch.
"I'm really disappointed in the fact that I'm not contributing to the team," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "It's really frustrating."
Rays starter Matt Moore gave New York plenty of chances to get back into the game, but the Yankees couldn't capitalize. The left-hander walked six batters and threw three wild pitches over his five innings, allowing at least two runners to reach base in four of the five frames he pitched.
The Yankees never came through with a hit when they needed to, though. The offense went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners on base.
"I think we all know the situation," right fielder Vernon Wells said. "You can't win ballgames if you don't put runs on the board. You give their pitcher credit, but we had opportunities and didn't come through."
Despite his struggles, Moore allowed just three hits to earn his 16th win of the season.
"There were a lot of baserunners on," Moore said. "So there were definitely some situations there where one base hit and we're [in] a lot tighter game than we'd like to be with a three-run lead in the first. Getting some of those key outs with runners in scoring position, I'm happy the way those went."
The Rays turned the game into a blowout in the ninth inning, tagging Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley for two more runs on RBI doubles from Delmon Young and DeJesus.
With the end of the season quickly approaching, the Yankees will have to win their final two games against the Rays and all three against the Astros over the weekend -- and have the Indians lose all five of their games -- to keep hope of earning a postseason berth alive.
"This is what you play the whole season for, for opportunities like this," Wells said. "Everything we've gone through as a team, there's no time to be tired.
"I think there's enough heart in this clubhouse to finish things out the right way."